Mindfulness Therapy for Panic Attacks

Anxiety disorders that are associated with panic attacks, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder, are among the most common of all mental illnesses. A least 1 in 5 people will experience a panic attack at some point in their lives, and these attacks are especially common among people in their 20s and 30s. Such attacks can be debilitating, preventing victims from leaving their houses and maintaining normal relationships due to their fear of triggering another attack or being caught in public during an attack.

Because panic attacks are both very common and potentially very serious, it is vital that those who need treatment have access to it. Many people, however, cannot afford traditional therapy or are too afraid to see a therapist in person. These people often seek self-help therapy or look for therapy that is available over the Internet. One system of cognitive therapy, called Mindfulness Meditation Therapy (MMT), is making tremendous gains in popularity because a growing body of research shows that it can be just as effective when practiced through online therapy as it is when practiced in person. This makes MMT a good solution for those suffering from panic attacks who are unwilling or unable to seek traditional therapy.

MMT has its roots in neuro-linguistic programming, Buddhist psychology, and experiential psychotherapy. The goal of this type of therapy is to help those suffering from anxiety and panic attacks to recognize their fearful emotions and to distance themselves from these emotions. Through this mental distancing, panic attack sufferers can ultimately prevent their attacks and regain control of their lives. Once they no longer fear the feelings that trigger these attacks, they can work through the underlying emotions and deal with any issues that may arise.

Reframing is one of the most important techniques that those practicing MMT learn to help cope with their panic attacks. Instead of viewing anxiety as an emotion or fear that can sweep them away, patients learn to picture the anxiety as an object that appears in their mind. Instead of thinking, “I am afraid!” the patient reframes that thought and thinks, “I notice the emotion of fear arising in me.” By reframing, patients separate themselves from such thoughts and learn to stop fearing them. This in turn prevents such thoughts and emotions from becoming full-blown panic attacks.

Once a person can consistently reframe distressing thoughts so that they are no longer overwhelming, he or she can practice the next technique: the Response of Friendliness. Rather than fearing distressing thoughts, MMT patients learn to greet them like old friends, allowing the anxiety emotion to exist without affecting their overall mood or attitude. This in turn creates a frame of mind in which the distressing emotion can begin to heal itself.

There are numerous books and websites about MMT to guide people who want to try to rid themselves of anxiety and panic attacks. Online and in-person therapy sessions are also available. MMT can help those suffering from anxiety and panic attacks to reclaim their lives by giving them the skills they need to manage and ultimately eliminate their anxiety.

 

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